A message from Rodney W., FMR Specialist, U.S. Army:
Seeing the way the folks in D.C. talk about my choices for my school and education, how they keep repeating words like “protect” Veterans, or labeling my path as a “nontraditional” education–as if it’s one step away from being disqualified as an education altogether–, I get the sense that DC lawmakers believe that anyone who doesn’t go to a 4-year college is not doing as well as they should be.
I’m glad to say that I am much happier than I think I would have been going to a “traditional” college, spending four to six years getting a degree and starting at the bottom again. Going to a vocational school has been by far the best choice I could have made. My family does not look down on me for my education and what I do. I hope that the people in DC start to look at me in the same way.
I hear that there are laws being discussed to limit my choice on where I go to school, and it turns out that a lot of those limitations apply to career colleges. But, I think the average Veteran mindset really benefits from vocational training and skilled trades. After separating from the military, the one thing I know I was missing, and what a lot of other Veterans I’ve known were missing, was having a purpose for what you were doing. To me, repairing important equipment and helping businesses stay running when times were hard constantly reminds me that there are people who rely on me. It reminds me of what I learned in the military and what I was missing when I left, that your work supports others and others work to support you. This type of work really gets me up in the morning, and I look forward to every job I do.
I also have never had any problems gaining employment, which has been especially important right now during the pandemic with everything shut down. I’ve seen so many people lose their jobs they got with their traditional degree, or struggle to get work at all when they graduate, but I have been employed right out of the gate. Even moving to a different state, I was able to find a great job within a week. I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that there is an amazing support system for employment in the skilled trades.
There are entire staffing agencies whose only job is to look for skilled employees to meet industry needs, and with both the high rate of Veteran unemployment and high demand in industry right now, I would think the government would be encouraging Veterans to go career colleges like mine, not passing laws to limit how and where we can use our benefits. But I earned these benefits. They were not “given” to me, and they weren’t gifts to all the other Veterans who did their duty and fulfilled their promises. I spent seven and half years earning mine, two of those years serving in the middle east between Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have the right to use them to get the education I choose, even if it that’s a different choice than what the people in D.C. made.
- Rodney W.
FMR Specialist, U.S. Army